May 18, 2018

Abdullah Ansari, an Afghan carpet seller explains a war rug to U.S Lt. Col. Kevin Holt at Ansari's shop in Camp Eggers, the U.S. base in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, March 12, 2009. Credit: AP Photo / Rafiq Maqbool

When Connie Duckworth visited Afghanistan in 2003, she was struck by two things: the deep poverty that engulfed the country and, by contrast, her own wealth and comfort. The former Goldman Sachs executive decided she needed to help and saw an opportunity in a skill many of the women already possessed: rug making. Duckworth created ARZU, a non-profit that employs Afghan women and gives them access to resources like education and healthcare. We talked with Duckworth about how this model might fit into the broader scope of international development. 

Three Takeaways:  

  • Why did Duckworth land on rugs? First, she tried convincing manufacturers to open a garment manufacturing plant. But among other logistical problems, women might not be allowed to go and work there. Rugs were something that could be made at home. 
  • Duckworth says the rug industry is rife with the exploitation. To fix it, Duckworth says ARZU worked to remove middlemen from the process, so the women producing the rugs would take home more money.  
  • Afghanistan is one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman. Because of that, Duckworth requires the male head of the household to sign a social contract. This contract allows children in the house — both boys and girls — to go to school, and lets women get access to good healthcare and education. 

More reading: 

Goldman Sachs, Afghanistan, Rugs, International Development, Connie Duckworth

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